Japanese Prime Minister orders Fukushima plant to close last two nuclear reactors
After tour, Japanese leader orders plant operators to immediately shut down plant and focus on containing radioactive water leaks
Associated Press in Okuma
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the operator of the country's crippled nuclear power plant yesterday to scrap all six reactors at the site instead of just four already slated for decommissioning and to concentrate on tackling pressing issues like radioactive water leaks.
After taking a first-hand look at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, however, Abe insisted that radiation-contaminated water had been contained at the complex and said he would fend off "rumours" about Fukushima's safety.
Following a three-hour tour of the plant, Abe instructed its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to decommission the number five and six reactors, which survived the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The disaster caused three other reactors to melt and damaged a fuel cooling pool at another. Tepco has been unsure about what to do with the two surviving reactors, leading some to believe that it may be still be hanging on to hopes of keeping them alive.
"I told [Tepco] to ensure decommissioning of reactors number five and six so that they can concentrate more on dealing with the accident," Abe told workers and reporters as he wrapped up the tour at the plant's emergency command centre.
Tepco President Naomi Hirose told Abe that a decision on the reactors would be made by the end of the year, the prime minister said.
Abe said that he urged Tepco to ensure it has enough funding to take care of urgent work needed to clear the way for the plant's decommissioning, and that Hirose promised to obtain one trillion yen (HK$78 billion).
The prime minister said he stood by the reassurance about Tokyo's safety that he gave to the International Olympic Committee before the city of 35 million was awarded the right to host the 2020 summer games earlier this month.
"One of the main purposes of this visit was to see it for myself, after I made those remarks on how the contaminated water has been handled," Abe said.
Officials have acknowledged that radiation-contaminated groundwater has been seeping into the Pacific since soon after meltdowns and explosions crippled the plant following the earthquake and tsunami.
Abe said he was convinced that all of the contaminated water had been contained.
"In light of that, I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," he said.
During his tour, Abe was shown some of the 1,000 tanks containing radioactive water, water treatment equipment and a chemical dam being installed along the coast - steps meant to contain the water leakage, which experts say is a major obstacle for the decades-long cleanup.
Abe's adamant reassurance to the IOC that the leaks are "under control" had backfired at home, as many Japanese believe he was glossing over problems at the plant.
Hours before the IOC chose Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics, Abe gave a speech declaring that radioactive contaminants from the leakage had no impact on seawater outside the bay near the plant. Tokyo was not at risk, he insisted.